Hi, I’m D’Lea. Also known as Dianne Denholm. My late and very great, creative Dad gave me this middle name. It’s been a fun name to have. Turns out my journey is also unique. Here it is.
D’Leas, the store, was a very fun place that changed the format of previously known fabric stores into a treasured creative experience (between 1986-2006.) No wonder I hear how many miss it still today. Flair. Color. Inspiration. Friendly creativity. Quality mixed with joy. Beauty mixed with possibility. Rare combinations. Unique colors. Not so typical fabrics. World prints and treasured textures. Personality buttons in every material. Success patterns to sew and wear. And always….encouragement to celebrate your own individual authentic self through the fashion arts. Hundreds of classes, national speakers and national notoriety were enjoyed in Denver’s D’Leas Fabric & Button Studio, the unique art supplies/art gallery fabric boutique experience for the tactile artisan. Certainly a 20 year era reminisced and rarely found elsewhere today.
I was not ready to stop my work supporting sewing enthusiasts when new city parking restrictions caused severe drops in traffic and my store closing. Remembering that my store was reminiscent of the fabulous Textile Center in Minneapolis led me to a 7 year adventure that expanded my arts focus beyond sewing fashion to the much wider world of other textile arts disciplines. Weaving, Quilting, Beading, Lacemaking, Silk Painting, Felting and Doll Making names a few. Founding the closest possible model in Denver for the Rocky Mountain region was indeed, a most ambitious decision. TACtile Textile Arts Center, a non-profit, was born in 2007 and thrived for 5 years with my vision and direction. Popular events and exhibits included World Threads, Fiber Frenzy, Holes & Knots, and Green with Envy: Re-Cycle Re-Purpose. Curating dozens of stellar fiber arts exhibitions/events, accomplishing synergy between multiple fiber arts organizations who met there monthly, and writing grants that secured public arts funding was a thrill beyond my greatest imaginations of achievement. I resigned in the fall of 2012 because of shocking, inadequate board leadership. The mission, vision and integrity was severely compromised soon after, and sadly, TACtile closed in early 2015.
In the 5 years since that most difficult time, working for the Denver Art Museum and Denver Botanic Gardens Gift Shops, fostered continued connections with devoted customer friends and heightened creativity from the exhibits! Glad to contribute, I volunteered as a consultant to Dr. Alice Zrebiec, the esteemed DAM Textile Arts Curator, during the most spectacular textile arts exhibition SPUN Adventures in Textiles. SPUN was the largest campus wide exhibit ever done at the DAM to date, honoring the $3 million expansion of the Textile department with textile themed exhibits from every curator. The Botanic Gardens also celebrated their largest exhibit while I was there, that of Dale Chihuly Glass in the Gardens. I enjoyed immense growth in my art and nature sensibilities during these experiences…..and a growing desire to write and share my unique reflections.
To get back to fashion, I spent 3 years learning more with Molly’s of Denver, selling professional women’s wardrobes. Because I love to sew, I loved witnessing successful small American designers express and produce their fashion vision for our inventory, and powerful executives enjoying beautiful fabrics and workmanship with their purchases. I was literally the ONLY one who knew how to sew a stitch in the store environment….a startling experience for me, considering my previous decades!
Re-creating Touch…in celebration of a lifetime passion for sewing, beauty & textiles, I am again challenged to reinvent D’Leas from brick and mortar traditions, by seeking touch and tangibility with 21st century digital means…no small feat. We crave touch yet see the current economic world taking it away from us. Let us explore our mutual tactile fascination for design, line, fabric and individual expression by feeling through our eyes, emotions, and words. Perhaps our wider global audience will introduce new joys and sensibilities otherwise not known. From the Individualist tab of the Vogue Pattern Book in the 1980’s to the Millennial trends of now, let’s keep in Touch.
In the interest of mentoring future boutique owners, I would like to document my personal path of people, places and circumstances that contributed to D’Leas successful run, in case it could help them navigate their own unique journey. My Academy Award speech:
- my age 11 inner self craving to stitch and design my clothes that still pulses (i.e. recognizing my passion early)
- my high school fashion design and illustration teachers who were young and hip and fresh out of design school (luck)
- my CSU degree in Fashion, my early buyer training with Macy’s (education)
- my mom for telling me about a buttons & ribbon store she figured I’d like (luck)
- trust from that store owner to let me do the fabric buying and hand made ads (hard work)
- my mom for helping me get my first loan to start a store (love)
- my family friend who, 2 years later, served as an angel investor, without whom D’Leas would never have taken flight (luck)
- 1000’s of customers who made it fun to put fabrics on a shelf and buttons on a box front (hard work, experience, built it, they came)
- gorgeous women on my staff, whose creativity and endurance for teaching and selling beautiful things was truly inspiring (nurture and respect)
- my family of husband, sisters, mother, step-son, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. I have long teary, emotional speeches I could say about each of them. Just know I’d be in an asylum without these faithful people and D’Leas and TACtile would have been flat without them. (tons of love)
- women of the world who want to keep sewing in a world that says it is not necessary but we know it is (heritage)
- our young sisters for seeking the art, despite few early life encouragements to try it (genetics & passion)